February 6, 2010 in Features

Group in Haiti let heart overrule head

By The Spokesman-Review
 

I pray the 10 Baptist missionaries jailed in Haiti on child abduction charges are cleared soon. They deserve it.

I pray Haitian authorities will see this international scandal for what it appears to be: good-intentioned people acting in half-blind haste.

But mostly I pray that the compassion and goodness shown in the name of Jesus Christ by thousands of missionaries now in Haiti can continue to be effective, despite the black eye earned by these 10.

In newspapers, on TV and the Internet, the debacle has wrongly impugned the motives of evangelicals extending aid to needy people. The court of public opinion allows the missteps of a few to tarnish the work of many.

Five men and five women – detained last week while trying to take 33 Haitian children out of that country – were charged Thursday with kidnapping and criminal association. They lacked government approval to take the children, some of whose parents survived the earthquake.

A spokesperson for the group, eight of them from Idaho, insists they were simply trying to rescue quake victims, offering them a better life in the Dominican Republic. Many of the children’s parents clearly approved the arrangement.

Lest evangelicals lament this as the latest persecution of Christians doing God’s work, consider the facts: These missionaries broke rules that are in place to protect poor and vulnerable families. However unintended, this group has carelessly carved the stick now being used to beat evangelical Christian mission work throughout the world.

Better to just own this mistake and learn from it.

The lesson: At times, the head must overrule the heart.

I recently traveled to New Delhi, India, to help with a medical mission to slums, villages and a leper colony.

The word “heartbreaking” does not even begin to describe the sight of parents desperate to give away their children to save them from abject poverty or disease. It’s an image you never get out of your head.

My point is this: These missionaries now sitting in a humid Haitian jail no doubt gathered up these needy kids with heartfelt compassion, believing they were providing a bit of heaven to a hellish situation.

But this is an international spectacle that need not have happened. They didn’t have to break the law in the name of helping people.

Yes, God does sometimes lead us to do things that cause us trouble with authorities. The words of the apostle Peter to those who would silence the gospel come to mind: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29 – NKJV).

Let’s just be certain we’re doing God’s will, not merely our own, before violating the law of the land.

After all, the Bible also tells us “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. … Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2 – NIV).

We don’t break the law just because we really feel we ought to do so. Feelings can be deceptive. God leads us according to the truth of his word, not merely our feelings.

Are we ever right to disobey government? Yes, when it would require us to disobey God’s word.

That didn’t appear to be the case in Haiti. In fact, as the missionaries awaited arraignment this week, two Haitian children were united with their adoptive parents at the Boise airport.

It’s possible to help Haitian children – legally.

And at times it is wise, and a good witness to the world, to let the head overrule the heart.

Steve Massey is the pastor of Hayden Bible Church in Hayden, Idaho ( www.haydenbible.org). He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or steve@haydenbible.org.


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